The Grinch

The Grinch \ Director: Yarrow Cheney, Scott Mosier | Rating: 9/11 |

The Grinch, the sauntering green creature who despises Christmas, has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday season. His story of stealing Christmas from the Christmas-obsessed Whos and then having his heart grow two sizes has been told three times over: first as the book by Dr. Seuss, then as the Chuck Jones animated TV special, and finally brought to life by Jim Carrey. Now the Grinch is back, this time via Illumination (the same studio that created the minions) and this might be the most charming version yet.

In The Grinch, the story is pretty much the same — the Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) lives above the Whos in Whoville and can’t stand their Christmas celebration. Illumination’s take on Whoville is far more whimsical; Whos ride around on sleds to get about town and have complex shops that can close up with a snap. There are clever nods to our own world (The Whos buy their groceries at “Who Foods”) and they’re not quite as obnoxious as previous versions of the Whos. The Grinch himself isn’t feared the way he was in the Jim Carrey version; instead he’s regarded as a curmudgeonly neighbor. One neighbor in particular, Bricklebaum (voiced by Kenan Thompson), thinks he is the grinch’s best friend, much to his chagrin.

In this version of The Grinch, the grinch’s is far less convoluted which makes him a more sympathetic character. Whereas in the Jim Carrey version, the Grinch hated Christmas because as a child he was made fun of for shaving. The side character of Cindy Lou Who (Cameron Seely) is beefed up to a cute B plot, and it’s a story that is far more relatable and poignant in the 21st century: she is the daughter of a single mother (voiced by Rashida Jones) and she simply wants Santa to make her mom happy. Cindy Lou is determined to capture Santa to ensure that he gets this message, and enlists the help of her ragtag group of friends to help set up traps. The best one is Rupert, a redheaded nut-ball who is hopelessly clueless.

In addition to the tweaks in plot, this version maintains the eccentricity of Dr. Seuss, but stays true to Illumination’s style. There is a lot of visual humor throughout the film, particularly through a large yak named Fred who is recruited into the Grinch and Max’s plans. One of the best moments is when Fred climbs into bed with the Grinch, nearly devouring him with his size. The gags between the Grinch and Bricklebaum are hilarious as well, as in one scene Bricklebaum believes that his dog has now received powers after the Grinch tries to steal a sled from him. Much of the film focuses on the Grinch creating various inventions to help him steal Christmas, and each invention is quite ingenious. The inventions hark back to those of another animated film of a man and his dog: Wallace and Gromit, and many of the scenes match the endearing style of those films.

The Grinch is sure to not only delight children, but adults as well. The film moves quickly enough so that children will not get bored, and nor does it ever stoop to simple humor that would bore adults. It’s a welcome addition to The Grinch collection, and while it’s never going to replace the Chuck Jones cartoon, it is a quirky and fun take on a classic tale.